The Settler Right Dictates Israel's Response

A cowardly reckless government is allowing itself to be dragged along by extremists.

Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav
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Police arrest someone during an anti-Arab demonstration in Jerusalem, in which Arab passersby were attacked on Tuesday.
Police arrest someone during an anti-Arab demonstration in Jerusalem, in which Arab passersby were attacked on Tuesday.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav

A few hours after the bodies of the murdered teens were found, a stormy meeting of the diplomatic-security cabinet ended with no operative decisions. Decisions were deferred for 24 hours, when another meeting would be held.

In a normal country, this would be a welcome decision: There’s no logic in making strategic decisions when people’s blood is boiling and the victims haven’t even been buried yet – especially when idiotic suggestions abounded at the meeting, ranging from all-out war on the Palestinians, to building a new settlement.

The problem is that Israel has become an abnormal country led by a cowardly, reckless government. Therefore, the one-day delay could actually make things worse. Who knows what new ideas will enter the ministers’ fevered brains? Not only will they come to the meeting inflamed by the funerals, but they will have had 24 hours to be intimidated by the settler right’s calls for vengeance and war.

In this context, it’s important to remember that Habayit Hayehudi and its chairman, Naftali Bennett, were never officially put in charge of mourning for the murdered teens. They are no more saddened by the murder than anyone else and have no extra rights in deciding what steps should be taken in response. The fact that the teens were studying at yeshivas in the Gush Etzion settlements doesn’t make their deaths a card in the settler right’s hand. We’ve heard similar cries of “destroy Hamas” after every terror attack of the last 20 years.

The only thing that has changed this time around is that the settler right has become a legitimate part of the government. Until a year ago, they were just cheering from the sidelines. But at the initiative of two center-left leaders, Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid, Israel has now entrusted its fate to a messianic movement seeking to ensure the state’s destruction. When they were outside the government, the settlers used to exploit such murders to establish illegal settlement outposts named after the victims. Now, the defense minister is proposing establishing a new settlement named after the three boys – as if Israel had a strategic interest in building new settlements.

The army brass remains unenthusiastic about cooperating with the delusions of Bennett and his colleagues; the four-headed government is torn; and the prime minister lacks both courage and leadership. So meanwhile, as a compromise, the air force has attacked 34 empty buildings in Gaza.

At most, this serves to intimidate the civilian population (terror) – part of the culture of lies we’ve all grown used to. That same culture in which shots were heard on the tape of one teen’s call to a police hotline and bullet holes found in the torched car, yet despite these clear indications that the boys were almost certainly killed shortly after being abducted, all those in the know collaborated in falsely raising the public’s hopes, with encouragement from the media. Apparently, this served everyone’s needs, including the government, still embarrassed by the Palestinian unity government; the settler right, which raced back into the consensus by exploiting the silent majority’s blindness; and those who kowtow to the settler right, first and foremost media outlets addicted to populism.

This evil spirit is spreading to the streets, where innocent Arab passersby were attacked Monday night, and also to the army. In a highly unusual move, soldiers burst into the suspected kidnappers’ homes Monday night by making free use of explosives (though the kidnappers, let’s recall, went into hiding after the abduction and haven’t returned home). Effectively, Palestinians say, both houses were demolished.

Such an action makes a mockery of the state’s sovereignty, which is being dragged along by the extremists – whether voluntarily or involuntarily doesn’t matter. At that very moment, the Supreme Court was holding learned deliberations over the state’s request to demolish the house of another murderer, the one who killed police officer Baruch Mizrahi in April.

Palestinians say the explosions wounded an 18-month-old baby. Just a day earlier, our prime minister quoted a line from Haim Nahman Bialik’s poem “City of Slaughter” – “Such vengeance for the blood of a child has yet to be wrought by Satan.” But he was evidently referring to Jewish children. If there’s anything Satan hasn’t wrought, it’s the cycle of bloodshed and revenge that the sane people on both sides are powerless to break.

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